FT : Tata Plans Huge Mobile Broadband Rollout In India

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Tata Communications, part of India’s largest industrial group, plans to spend up to $600m during the next five years to roll out a WiMax wireless network in the hope of dramatically boosting the country’s tiny number of broadband internet connections.  Tata’s WiMax deployment will be one of the largest in the world, according to Gartner, the research firm.  Sylvain Fabre, analyst at Gartner, said Tata’s plans were similar to those of Wateen Telecom, which is rolling out the world’s first nationwide WiMax network in Pakistan.  Tata expects to sign up at least 200,000 customers in 115 cities by next March and has signed a deal with California-based Telsima to supply the network…..Proponents of WiMax argue that it is the most economical way of connecting households to high-speed networks in countries where fixed-line networks are less well developed.  Meanwhile, mobile operators, such as Sprint Nextel of the US and Japan’s KDDI, are looking to use WiMax to provide “on the move” broadband connections, for example for laptop users. 

The launch of WiMax in India enables “reliable and affordable communication anytime, anywhere”, Shankar Prasad, president of Tata Communications retail business unit, said on Tuesday.  The number of broadband connections in India pales in comparison with the swelling size of the country’s mobile phone market.  India adds about 8m mobile subscribers each month but counts only 3.1m total broadband connections out of its population of 1.1bn.  The country looks unlikely to meet ambitious government targets of reaching 10m broadband connections by 2010.  The number of broadband connections is low partly because of poor or non-existent fixed-line telecoms infrastructure running to many homes and offices.  WiMax can dispense with ground cables to reach customers, making the wireless technology attractive to many developing countries.  Computer ownership in India is also low.  While PC sales grew a robust 20% last year, India had roughly 22m computers as of last March, according to IDC, the consulting firm.  Tata’s WiMax services are aimed primarily at urban users in the next few years.

Reference : http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/61f32ad2-ea0d-11dc-b3c9-0000779fd2ac.html

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